Cortana in Windows Phone 8.1
|Initial release||April 2, 2014.|
|Type||intelligent software assistant|
Cortana is an intelligent personal assistant on Windows Phone 8.1.  Its name comes from Cortana, the artificial intelligence character in Microsoft's own Halo series, with Jen Taylor, the character's voice actress, returning to voice the personal assistant's US-specific version.
Cortana was demonstrated for the first time at the Microsoft BUILD Developer Conference (April 2-4, 2014) in San Francisco. It has been launched as a key ingredient of Microsoft's planned "makeover" of the future operating systems for Windows Phone, Windows, as well as Xbox One. It is currently available to all users of Windows Phone 8.1 in the United States, China, and the United Kingdom. Users in India, Canada and Australia can also choose to opt-in to the beta for the American English version of Cortana as of August.  Microsoft expects Cortana to be available globally by either late 2014 or early 2015.
Cortana's features include being able to set reminders, recognize natural voice without the user having to input a predefined series of commands, and answer questions using information from Bing (like current weather and traffic conditions, sports scores, and biographies). Windows 8.1's universal Bing SmartSearch features are incorporated into Cortana, which replaces the previous Bing Search app which is activated when a user presses the "Search" button on their device.
In the new Lumia Denim series to be launched in October 2014, an improvement to Cortana will be active listening, which is the flagship feature of the Moto X in the Android world. With active listening, Cortana is always listening for the trigger phrase “Hey Cortana,” even across the room and without the need to touch the phone. After the trigger phrase is spoken, Cortana can be controlled normally for tasks like setting a reminder, asking a question, or launching an app.
Cortana also integrates with Foursquare to provide restaurant and local attraction recommendations.
The "Notebook" is where personal information such as interests, location data, reminders, and contacts will be stored for access by Cortana. Cortana will be able to draw upon and add to this data in order to learn the user's specific patterns and behaviors. The user will be able to view this information, with the aim of offering greater control over privacy settings by allowing them to specify what information is collected, "a level of control that goes beyond comparable assistants". Users can also delete information from the "Notebook" if they deem it undesirable for Cortana to know.
Most versions of Cortana take the form of two nested, animated circles. The circles are animated to indicate certain activities such as searching or talking.
Cortana features a "do-not-disturb" mode in which users can specify "quiet hours", something that is already available for Windows 8.1 users. Users can change the settings so that Cortana calls users by their names (or nicknames). It also has an extensive library of Easter Eggs, consisting of witty and pre-determined remarks.
Cortana is region-specific, and adapts its voice to match the everyday language, culture and speech patterns of the country its user lives in. For example, the UK version of Cortana speaks with a British accent and uses British idioms, while the Chinese version, known as Xiao Na, speaks Mandarin Chinese and has an icon featuring a face and two eyes. Cortana also localizes to fit the needs of its user, and will display relevant information on subject areas such as local sports teams, businesses, TV series and stock exchanges.
Cortana updates are delivered independently of those to the main Windows Phone OS, allowing Microsoft to provide new features at a faster pace.
2014 FIFA World Cup
Cortana correctly predicted the winners of the first 14 matches of the 2014 FIFA World Cup knockout stage, including the semi-finals, before it incorrectly picked Brazil over the Netherlands in the third place play-off match. This streak topped Paul the Octopus who correctly predicted all 7 of Germany's 2010 FIFA World Cup matches as well as the Final.
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- "Cortana’s unbroken streak ends with Netherlands 3:0 win over Brazil". WMPoweruser.com. 12 July 2014. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
- Backaitis, Virginia (11 July 2014). "Why Microsoft's Cortana is 14 for 14 Calling World Cup Matches". CMSWire.com. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
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- Wint, Bradley (9 July 2014). "Cortana maintains winning streak, correctly predicting 14 games in a row". KontentPort.com. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
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